Monday, 17 March 2014

Why not getting fishfingers for tea is nothing like trying to get Broadband out of BT

Poor customer service. It’s one of the disappointments of life. And something that I try and avoid at all costs – providing poor service. Whether I receive poor customer service is pretty much out of my hands, although I always try and act in a polite and courteous way to ensure that if I am on the receiving end of the worst the customer care sector has to offer me, well, that I don’t stoop to their level.

Sometimes, in my aim to provide great customer service, I’ll admit, I get it wrong. I don’t live up to expectations. However, I always try my best to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Take the other day. The kids had an INSET day I was in an all day meet and greet with my key customers, facilitated by the learning establishment they are usually attached to. After TV watching viewing some motivational video clips, we played some games and read some stories did some bonding exercises, tidied the house used teamwork to tackle a seemingly impossible task, took the dog for a walk reminded ourselves of the importance of fresh air in the working day, and then went to the supermarket enjoyed a visit to another supplier. While we were with the other supplier, I had to try and remember what we needed because I forgot the shopping list I had to wing it slightly so we had a brief discussion about the aims and objectives of the final session of the day of the day, before returning to conclude. 

And you see it was here that my customer service fell down – by failing to be prepared during the third party supplier meeting, for glossing over a couple of pertinent questions raised by my customers during the trip, I nearly lost the contract.

“But I thought you said we were having FISHFINGERS for tea, mummy, not TROUT. You said trout IN FISH FINGERS.”

“No, I said we were having trout and it would be a bit like fishfingers” (ahem).

“But YOU SAID it was fishfingers!”

“No, I didn’t, I merely suggested that we could have trout and it would be a bit like fishfingers”

“So what else can I have?”

“Well the potatoes and salad that I’m making to go with it. There’s bacon in the salad”

“OH-KAY [huff, huff]. I’ll eat it”

I mean, admittedly, I might have used the phrase ‘fishfingers’ in the same breath as ‘trout’ to get them on board with the idea, but did I promise something I had no intention of delivering? No, I did not.

And in the end, she ate it all up and pronounced it delicious, so you see, the bitter pill of what she might have perceived as bad customer service (heaven forbid that she ever does, I’d prefer her to just chalk it up to experience and having a slightly flaky mother) had a positive outcome. AND there were yoghurts of the type I don’t normally buy for pudding.

Bearing that in mind, let’s look at another scenario, then, shall we, one where there is no surprisingly satisfactory outcome in the way that Pink was blessed with on Friday.
British Telecom.

If ever there was an example of UTTERLY SHOCKING customer service, I think I have it here. I wasn’t going to name names. I was going to maintain a polite silence, try and retain the moral high ground, but I am so seething with the service I have received (well, actually, NOT received) that I am chucking my principles out of the window.
We moved house on 17th February.

2 weeks before that (2 WEEKS) I contacted BT, our phone & broadband supplier, and asked them to transfer the service. They said that the earliest appointment for an engineer (and apparently an engineer was required) would be 7th March. 5 weeks later, 3 weeks after we would have moved.

Despite me explaining that I wouldn’t be living at my previous address after 17th February, they insisted that they could continue to provide me with a service there until 7th March, when the services would then be transferred over. No use to me – did they expect me to change my moving plans to suit them? Perhaps. Anyway, I could live with it.
I made arrangements to cover my broadband & telephone needs for the first 3 weeks in our new home. Where we’re living, the mobile signal is patchy, so mobile data hasn’t really been a reliable option, and we live in a truly rural area so the oh so helpful ‘BT wifi hitspot’ service doesn’t help a huge amount. There was one lay by that gave good signal, but the owners of the house opposite started to get suspicious about what we were doing… 

7th March arrived – I was almost beside myself with excitement. The engineer arrived but couldn’t complete the job. A sorry tale of a broken cable, the need for a hoist to fix it, and all the hoists being in Port Talbot. He took my number and left. He’d tried to call me before the appointment but had an ‘01256’ number. “Where is that?” he asked. “Hampshire.” I said.”Where we used to live.” I said. BT had obviously assumed that I would postpone the move until they could provide their services to us…

I called BT. A nice helpful chap, Michael, I believe his name was, apologised, said they would generate a new appointment on Monday, someone would contact me and it would be assigned to a ‘chase’ team who would be in touch on Tuesday. Things would be expedited, he assured me. He apologised. I believed him.

Monday came and went and by 4.30 in the afternoon I had no call, so I called, and had an appointment arranged for Thursday that week (the 13th). I specifically asked whether the cable issue was fixed, I was assured that it had been, and that everything would be fine on Thursday 13th. It didn’t feel very expedited, but what could I do?

No one from the chase team followed up on Tuesday, but I received a text confirming my appointment for Thursday 13th March.

Then I got another text confirming my appointment on Friday 14th March. Errr??

I called them. Apparently the cable fault WASN’T fixed, but it would all be done on Friday. Between 8 and 1. My kids’ INSET day. Marvellous.

So Friday morning, we stayed in. We watched TV, we played games and read stories. The dog crossed his legs (he hates poo-ing in the garden). The BT man (or woman) didn’t come.

I called.

I didn’t actually cry, but it was close. Apparently the fault hadn’t been fixed but it would be fixed by the end of the day. The person I spoke to said he could book me in an appointment for the following Wednesday (yes, the 19th!!) and once the fault was confirmed as fixed, they could sort me out an expedited appointment earlier. I raged. I nearly swore. I told him how terribly inconvenient this all was, how I had stayed in for 5 whole hours with my children waiting for someone and why couldn’t THEY HAVE RUNG ME????

He was very polite and apologised, but I was steaming, so I did the worst thing I could think of. I asked to speak to a supervisor. Apparently he could not put me through to a supervisor, but he could schedule a call back. Yes please, I said (still polite, you’ll notice, although I won’t deny that there was a definite tone to my voice). Between 5 and 6, I said. Yes, the call back was confirmed, the ever so polite adviser assured me.

We went to walk the dog (oh the relief) and to the supermarket so that the kids could hatch their long overdue Dragonvale eggs (it’s not just me that’s suffering).

At this point, @BTCare were involved. While we were at the supermarket making free with the wifi, I tweeted to ask if they could help me as I was worried I wouldn’t make it back to a sane environment before the scheduled call back. Turns out they couldn’t – I didn’t have my account details with me, to complete their online form, and once I got home the GPRS signal didn’t support it. #btdontcare as one of my twitter buddies styled it.

Anyway, I needn’t have worried, because the call back never came.

I called BT AGAIN. This now at 6 o’clock on a Friday night, when frankly no one wants to be dealing with this.

I spoke to another very lovely customer care assistant. She was sympathetic, she apologised. She said “Well, if I were you I’d be upset, too”.

She checked the notes and saw that my call back hadn’t been requested after all. She rang BT Open Reach – the cowboy outfit who were supposed to be fixing the underlying fault. The fault was fixed. She booked me a new appointment for Monday 17th March 8-1. She filled out (she said) a feedback form about the call back that never came. She called me ‘Lovey’ and made me feel like this time, I might just get a resolution…

Then the Husband came home bearing flowers and Prosecco (he’d been away all week) and life improved significantly.

We got an email confirming the new appointment. Then I got a text saying “Your phone line engineer will visit on 19 Mar 2014 arriving 8-1. If you can’t make this appointment, you can change it at “ 

Well, no I can’t actually, because I can’t get online, and anyway, MY APPOINTMENT IS FOR MONDAY 17TH MARCH.


So instead of making sure that my kids had everything they needed for school, I was on the phone to BT YET AGAIN.

More apologies, more time spent holding while my notes were read YET AGAIN. More of me screeching instructions to the kids to get their shoes on so we wouldn’t miss the school bus.
But no, my appointment was definitely still for this morning. 8-1 He said he would send me another text to confirm.

I stuck notices on the front and back door, explaining to the BT Engineer, should he come, that I would be out for 15 minutes taking the kids up the road to get the bus, and please, PLEASE could he wait. It shouldn’t have been a problem anyway as I’d updated my contact details so they should have had my mobile number to call me 15 minutes or so before he would arrive, and no call had come as I left the house.

About 9.15 I get a call from school saying my daughter should have taken her PE kit in to school. She needs it this afternoon. “When?” I ask. “1.15” is the reply. “Oh well that’s fine – I’m waiting in for BT but they should be here before 1, so I will bring it up straight away once they have been.”

Except BT didn’t come, they didn’t call, they didn’t do anything.

At 12:52, my doorbell rang. I girded myself, after all, 8 minutes is still within the time slot. But no. It wasn’t BT, it was some shirts the Husband had ordered. Well, a delivery man with some shirts.

And no BT man.

And then. Praise be! At 12:58, the doorbell. I see a fluorescent jacket outside the glass. It is the BT engineer. Well, actually, a subcontractor.

I’ll just check your phone line but then I’ll come back. The hoist isn’t here yet. It won’t be here till later this afternoon, I just checked.

Err, excuse me? So the fault isn’t fixed after all? And I’ve waited in ALL MORNING, not walked the dog, not taken my daughter her PE kit which she forgot while I was on the phone this morning to BT trying to confirm whether my slot had been moved to 19th March as per the unsolicited text…

And then there’s the parents evenings that I am scheduled to attend this afternoon. 

Will it be fixed today?” I ask. “I have to go out now and take my daughter her PE kit, and walk the dog, and then go to parent’s evening. I may not be back till about 5.

Oh yes, we can do it from outside once the hoist is here – we’ll probably be here when you get back later”.

The dog refuses to come back in the house. I explain to the engineer that he HASN’T HAD A PROPER WALK BECAUSE I WAS WAITING IN.

Oh, do you want me to take him out?”. I know he doesn’t mean it.

Yes, that would be great”.

He doesn’t. He gets in his van and goes back to Carmarthen, some 40 minutes away, to do a couple of other jobs, before coming back, leaving me to drive off to deliver a PE kit…

I should probably wait before posting this to see if I actually have a phone line and broadband service by the end of the day, but I’m not going to.

I am fuming. Spitting. Incandescent with impotent rage.

I am paying BT for a service I cannot use and they seem reluctant to provide me with. And I can’t seem to get any satisfaction. I try to speak to a supervisor and this isn’t followed through. Everyone I do speak to comes across as helpful and apologetic but the bottom line is that not only do I not have my broadband, I am being right royally messed about.

I have now waited in on 2 mornings for nothing, and no one has had the courtesy to call me to explain why the engineer has not made the appointment. I have had to call them and chase them on every occasion and I feel like screaming. I do not call turning up with 2 minutes to go to tell me he’ll be coming back later a proper fulfilment of an ‘8-1 appointment’, but what do I know? There’s probably something in the small print…

I can live without broadband – I am resourceful, I have made arrangements. Not long term, but for the short term, it’s just about liveable with. It makes my life far more complicated, but there we go.

What pisses me off is the lying and the missed appointments. I mean, I suppose, may be it's not lying, may be it's just UTTER INCOMPETENCE, with one organisation (BT) not knowing what the other (BT Open reach) is doing, but it feels like lying to me. And should you lie to your customers? Well I suppose I've told the kids the odd lie - father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, that sort of thing - but not real significant lies...

And the wasted time. The time I have wasted on phone calls, on sitting around when I could have been doing something else. Time that I can’t work properly, and the knock on this has had on the rest of my life for the last couple of week. Time I’ve spent on the phone instead of playing with the kids after school, time I haven’t walked the dog…

I think this is probably the WORST customer experience I have EVER had in all my 42 years. Yes, that bad. Even worse than the last time I moved house. And, oh yes, that was BT too…

So what shall I do? Well, apart from make more fruitless calls to BT demanding a refund of my bill, I'll do the only 2 things I can think of. Write this post, and believe me, when the BT engineer comes back, with his hoist, they may get a cup of tea, but there'll be no home made Battenburg cake for them, I can tell you... 

And when I get a good enough internet connection, I'll be posting a picture of the cake. You see, i can play dirty too, BT...


  1. Oh this is sooo familiar.
    I had similar when we moved to South Wales 2 years ago and am currently having #btdontcare issues with a possible phone line fault - phone is crackling (but there's no fault on the line, allegedly) and broadband is running at snails pace, when it can be bothered to connect.
    They'll send an engineer, probably, but they might charge me for the visit is they think it might, somehow, be my fault.
    Name calling on twitter has commenced, in the hope that someone might listen.

    1. Good luck - it's no fun. I have got my connection now, but the 'compensation' I am being offered for the appalling service is laughable.


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